(with apologies to the readers for being a day behind – so sorry, M)
Some days are as perfect as any day can be. Yesterday was one of them.
The weather was balmy, my golf game showed signs of reviving, I had a nice al fresco lunch with friends, and meanwhile news filtered in that Australia’s batsmen, playing in an Ashes test match, were in deep, deep trouble.
And indeed they were, England’s bowlers being in the process of knocking Australia over for 60 runs, and well before the pavilion table had even been cleared from breakfast let alone prepared for lunch. Before, in fact, a great many spectators had taken their seats in the stands.
Martha may just divorce me if I watch the television highlights one more time. Just for the next few weeks, dear, until the autumn leaves start to fall and we can start concentrating on the rugby world cup – and beating the Aussies in that tournament as well.
What is it about beating Australia – at anything: cricket, tiddlywinks, beer-drinking – that we Poms find so satisfying?
First, Britain is regarded by most Australians (still, and perhaps forever) as the ‘mother country’, Australia the unruly progeny. Children with much to prove always like to put one over on their parents and the parents in turn disapprove of the unruly disrespectful ways of their offspring.
Second, Australians live and breathe sport. They live in a country with a climate that permits all-year enjoyment of outdoor activities and take full advantage of the privilege. This means that they win at games quite often. In Britain we suffer through six months of dank winter gloom and convince ourselves that we are useless at everything. (We are not, these days, but being muddled and gallant losers is built into the national psyche.)
Third, because Aussies quite often win the games they play, they tend to get a bit ‘up themselves’, meaning gloating and hubristic. When Australia whitewashed England down-under in the last Ashes series – in which one Australian fast bowler, Mitchell Johnson, in particular bewitched and baffled the English batsmen – the Poms were immediately accused of being incompetent cowards who ought to give up playing cricket so that Australia would have more time to play more against teams more likely to give them a decent contest. “Stupid useless fucking Pommie bastards,” is the phrase that resonated in taprooms from Adelaide to Alice.
Today, though, the boot is on the other foot. It’s the stupid useless fucking Aussie bastards who are reeling. Or so some Poms will be saying. Good, they’ll be chuckling, let then reel right all the way down to the white cliffs of Dover, jump off, and if the bastards are so fucking good at swimming, head down to the south Atlantic and then turn left. Australia is that big island dead ahead of you, mate. And next time you come over, bring a cricket team with you.
Not me, though. Conforming to the national habit of fearing the worst, I expect today’s session of play (second day of five) to bring the usual England batting collapse, followed by one of the greatest Australian fight-backs in the history of Antipodean sport, the English once again, as so often in the past, humiliated by a superior breed of man.
Then again, perhaps not this time.